TAMPA, Fla. — The TSA says there were multiple failures that allowed a passenger to get on board a Frontier Airlines flight with a pair of box cutters.
That flight was supposed to land in Tampa on Friday, but it was diverted to Atlanta where that passenger was taken off the plane without incident.
Two women who were aboard the plane shared their first-hand accounts of what happened.
“His behavior, and how he was just acting and how unpredictable he seemed. From the beginning,” said Amy Deye and Lillian Hoffman.
Deye and Hoffman weren’t just passengers aboard Frontier flight 1761 between Cincinnati Northern Kentucky to Tampa Friday. Amy was sitting right in front of the man who’d managed to bring box cutters aboard their plane.
Lillian was sitting right next to him.
“We were messaging back-and-forth like 'Oh my God. You should just see who sat next to Lilly,'” said Deye.
“It was bad,” added Hoffman.
Both women describe the man’s behavior as erratic from the moment he stepped on the plane.
“He walked on the plane. He lost his shoe,” said Hoffman. “And there’s really odd confrontation where he like didn’t wanna pick it up. He was being very agitated. Kind of odd.”
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Hoffman says she could see the man fidgeting with one of the box cutters – the same razor-sharp tool used by terrorists in the 9/11 attacks.
“And I looked down and he has the box cutter with the blade that he was trying to put the blade into the actual mechanism,” said Hoffman. “And he was like playing with it in his hand.”
When the man got up a second time to go to the restroom, the passenger sitting on the other side of him – then told Hoffman something chilling.
“He was like – 'We need to tell somebody he has a knife,'” she said. “And he’s telling me that he wants to stab people.”
Hoffman says they told flight attendants, who at first thought they were playing a joke.
The flight crew then found a pair of military veterans aboard who agreed to switch seats with them.
“Suspect gets up and goes back to the bathroom,” said Deye. “And we don’t see him, thankfully, again.”
Twenty minutes later, their plane was on the ground, diverted to Atlanta.
Passengers were safely ushered off. And then, Hoffman says one of the flight attendants told her about a confrontation after the passengers had deplaned.
“He ended up charging the flight attendant wielding the box knife to go after her,” said Hoffman. “And the Air Force veteran who was sitting in front of me ended up tackling the suspect for police to come and take him off the plane.”
Hoffman shot video of the man being taken into custody.
Only later did they hear about a string of errors committed by TSA workers that allowed the man to get on the plane with the box cutters.
“Baffled. Terrified that [it's] even a thing that they allowed to happen. It could possibly happen again. That’s wrong,” said Deye.
“Hopefully won’t happen again. And thankfully, nothing and no one was injured,” added Hoffman.
Both women said if there was anything positive to come from the incident, it was that they made new friends on the flight.
A camaraderie with fellow passengers who all worked together to bring this to a peaceful and safe ending.
“I don’t know. It’s American spirit, I guess,” said Hoffman. “Like, find the best in the situation.”